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Mineral resources and the circular economy


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Towards more environmentally sound mining

The H2020 SLIM project aims to develop technical pathways for reducing the environmental impact of exploiting small metal ore deposits. Under the project, BRGM is carrying out an environmental assessment of drilling and blasting techniques. Key issues are reducing the amount of dead rock and increasing the energy efficiency of ore-cleaning downstream.

Erzberg mine: mining iron and controlling the environmental footprint of consumer products.
© VA Erzberg GmbH_Bavaria Luftbild Verlags GmbH

Making the most of the “urban mine”

The REDLED and VALOMAG European projects bring together BRGM and academic and industrial partners to develop innovative technological approaches to recycling LED (light-emitting diode) lighting and remanufacturing magnets from end-of-life magnets and/or recovering rare earth elements from the permanent magnets in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Producing lithium from European geothermal resources for batteries

The EuGeLi project began in 2019 to validate a process for extracting lithium from geothermal brines on an industrial scale. BRGM is responsible for carrying out an inventory of European lithium resources and modelling the process. It will also carry out chemical and isotope analyses as part of pilot trials in a geothermal plant in Alsace.

Eramet Ideas: the consortium visits the process laboratory at the project kick-off meeting in January 2019. © BRGM - R. Millot

What are our material and metal needs in the context of energy transition?

With energy transition, will we become dependent on metals instead of fossil fuels and nuclear power? This is the question which BRGM, CNRS and ADEME are seeking to address with the SURFER project. This project assesses the need for raw materials, energy, water and land over 2015–2050 to achieve energy transition in France according to three energy-mix scenarios: 90% renewable power, 50% nuclear power and the current mix trend.

Recycling very low-level radioactivity concrete

The CYBER project coordinated by Séché Énergies draws on BRGM’s expertise in mineral treatment processes. Its objective is to develop an innovative process for the treatment of VLL (very low-level) radioactivity concrete so that it can be reused in dedicated storage centres and more efficiently managed.

Foams for recovering metals from printed circuit boards

BRGM is a partner in the ANR Foamex project, which studies the use of leaching foams to extract and concentrate the metals in electronic circuit boards. This is an alternative to traditional hydrometallurgical processes, which are ill-suited for the recovery of metals from end-of-life objects because of the large amount of sludge needing treatment and the slow extraction rate.

A dynamic foam analyser, DFA 100, will analyse the leaching foams used for the treatment of electronic waste. © BRGM

Ensuring the traceability of gold

As part of the TRAM project on material traceability, BRGM has developed a method for tracing gold back to sources in French Guiana. Multiple techniques and scales are used to trace gold back to the different mined deposits in the French overseas department.

The first agreement to be entered into between BRGM and the University of Cape Town

On 4 February 2019, BRGM and the University of Cape Town in South Africa formally agreed to scientific collaboration in the fields of mineral resources and environmental protection. This five-year agreement aims to promote research on responsible mining, the circular economy with mineral waste recycling, and the sustainable management of underground water, including in mining sites and for water supply in urban areas.